Can Meditation and Mindfulness Be Harmful For You?

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Although not all mindfulness practices incorporate formal meditation, there have been several published examples of how meditation can lead to negative effects, such as anxiety, depersonalization, and depression.

A study conducted by Brown University in 2017 reports that 82 percent of meditators experience emotional side effects such as anxiety, panic, anxiety, and paranoia at some point during their practice. 

Other research suggests that the negative effects of mindfulness can lead to the development of new psychological problems or the aggravation of existing problems.

Furthermore, mindfulness has also been shown to be associated with negative outcomes such as reduced motivation, compromised implicit learning, and less willingness to accept responsibilities for wrongdoings.

It is important to note that little research has been conducted on the negative effects of meditation, and that not everyone who meditates will experience adverse effects.

Meditation Can Be Bad For You, Really?

Meditation, you say, should be be the old practice that will provide us with cures for modern problems.

Apart from offering a secular approach to spirituality, meditation is also supported by science, with empirical evidence to support its health benefits.

There are many benefits associated with mindfulness, such as enhancing positive emotions and lowering stress. For most people, most of the time, practicing mindfulness can enhance their well-being.

Several mindfulness-based interventions are being used for conditions such as stress, addiction, chronic pain, mood disorders, psychiatric disorders, and others, all with promising results. Studies suggest that you might even be able to fix your sex life with mindfulness.

When The Pendulum Swings The Other Way

While thousands of scientific studies examine the positive effects of meditation, Willoughby Britton, associate professor of psychiatry and human behavior at Brown University, says that finding and evaluating adverse effects – a process known as harm monitoring for non-pharmacological treatments such as mindfulness-based meditation programs – is difficult.

More than 75 percent of research studies on meditation do not measure or monitor side effects, Britton says.

She conducted and published the largest study on meditation-related problems in 2017, interviewing 100 meditation teachers and other meditators who had first-hand knowledge of meditation-related problems.

The results of that study and a follow-up study, point to some common symptoms. There’s hyper-arousal, increased anxiety, fear, panic, insomnia, trauma flashbacks, and emotional instability.

It’s also possible to have sensory hypersensitivity, or a heightened sensitivity to light and sound. The colors might appear brighter. A person might notice more things.

“When that keeps going, then suddenly sounds are really irritating, or you can’t leave your house because you hear everything and it’s really distracting,” Britton says.

Other research suggests that the negative effects of mindfulness can lead to the development of new psychological problems or the aggravation of existing problems.

Furthermore, mindfulness has also been shown to be associated with negative outcomes such as reduced motivation, compromised implicit learning, and less willingness to accept responsibilities for wrongdoings.

It is important to note that little research has been conducted on the negative effects of meditation, and that not everyone who meditates will experience adverse effects.

Meditation Can Cause “Zen Sickness”

Various Buddhist traditions have often described meditation’s varying effects, and it has been well-documented that meditation can trigger troubling sensations.

Nyams are variety of meditation experiences‘ ranging from bliss and visions to pain, paranoiaanger, sadness, and fear. According to Britton‘s research in 2017, nyams can be different for different people.

“Zen traditions have also long acknowledged the possibility for certain practice approaches to lead to a prolonged illness-like condition known as ‘Zen sickness’ or ‘meditation sickness.'”

Zen sickness has been referred to as The Dark Night by some meditators, though that phrase originated from Roman Catholic meditative tradition, according to Shinzen Young, a neuroscience consultant and mindfulness teacher.

“It is certainly the case that almost everyone who gets anywhere with meditation will pass through periods of negative emotion, confusion, disorientation, and heightened sensitivity to internal and external arisings.”  –   Shinzen Young, Minfulness Teacher

The Potential Side-Effects Of Mindfulness & Meditation

While some view meditation as a mental or emotional tool, it has been proven that meditation can also affect the body physicallyIn the 2017 study by the researchers from Brown University and the University of California , subjects reported feeling pain, pressure, involuntary movements, headaches, fatigue, weakness, and gastric discomfort.

Almost half of the participants in the 2017 study reported delusional, irrational, or paranormal thoughts while meditating. Additionallyexecutive function, or the ability to control yourself, was affected.

Researchers at Seattle Pacific University in 2009 confirmed these findings, showing that people who meditated felt delusional as well.

Besides, meditation could be a bad idea for procrastinators and people who have trouble focusing: the 2017 study found meditation could create a serious lack of motivation.

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Though more research is needed to determine the conditions under which mindfulness will be more or less beneficial, there is sufficient evidence to suggest some caution should be taken

Britton reminds us that meditation is not all calm and peace. It gives you a glimpse into the way the mind works. Psychological material (old resentments, wounds, traumas, etc.) can surface that may require additional support or even therapy.

Sometimes, mindfulness can even be harmful.

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